On Defining a 'Good City'

Here at Shotl we are on a mission to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable transportation options. The objective? Improved cities that benefit the lives of citizens. 

One of our main goals is to help cities and public transportation authorities reduce dependence on privately-owned vehicles, to subsequently reduce the volume of traffic and give an opportunity to rethink our public spaces. In this sense, we were lucky to cross paths with Sietse Touker, a student of International Spatial Development from Breda University of Applied Sciences (NHTV, The Netherlands) who joined our team last year during his internship from September to December 2017.

Sietse’s work was oriented towards analysis and prediction of what a Demand Responsive Transport system, provided by a platform like Shotl, could do to improve a city and the daily life of its people. Before delving deeper into it, we had to establish exactly what we mean by a ‘good city’. To do so, Sietse engaged 20 of his colleagues at NHTV to take part in a workshop that led to the outlining of the following principles on what a ‘good city’ should be. These are:

1) Quality of life: 

A good city provides the best possible quality of life for its residents. 

We define a ‘livable’ city as one “that’s safe and secure, with affordable and proper housing and transportation options. It is also one that supports its communities with efficient utilities and services. Once in place all these resources enhance personal independence, allow residents to age in place and foster residents’ engagement in the community’s civic, economic, and social life.” (cite from The Policy Book: AARP Public Policies). 

Caring about livability requires addressing multi-dimensional aspects, such as environmental, physical, mobility-related, social, psychological, economical or political (according to El Din, et al. (2012). Principles of urban quality of life for a neighborhood. Housing & Building National Research Center. Cairo: Elsevier B.V.

2) Comfort: 

Life must be comfortable; This includes comfortable urban space and convenient transportation options (traffic jams, for example, are a factor that contributes to poor quality of life). 

Comfort is one aspect which can be dramatically improved through use of a Demand Responsive Transport system as it increases convenience and trust for service users, especially whilst waiting for a vehicle to arrive. For example, providing safe and pleasant bus stops or keeping the user directly informed of the vehicle’s position is a paramount strategy for a tech enabler like Shotl.

3) Aesthetic beauty: 

Urban spaces should inspire and be aesthetically pleasing for citizens

Despite beauty being a very subjective matter, there is general consensus that, local and biodiverse vegetation, pleasing architecture or eye-catching monuments are elements that make cities more pleasant for residents.

4) Identity: 

People like to have a community to identify with. 

Transit maps, iconic streets, bus and taxi colours, etc. contribute to building this sense of community. White-labeled Apps ‘powered by’ Shotl are able to brand on-demand transportation services with an identity that locals feel they can already relate to.

5) Transit-oriented development (TOD): 

An urban development that maximises the amount of residential, business and leisure space within walking distance of public transport will help create more sustainable communities. 

In areas that are more sparsely populated, increasing public transport coverage through on-demand transport might increase the presence of community-building amenities. For example, a local grocery store placed near a pick-up point may catch the interest of people waiting for the bus.

6) Safety

Strong communities and walkable streets contribute to a reduction of crime and an increase of civic engagement. 

Sharing common spaces when traveling makes social links stronger. In this sense, it’s important to have vehicles that set the priorities of comfort and privacy.

* Sietse’s collaboration also includes the publication of our previous article On-Demand Shuttles and the Future of Cities.

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